A Rochester City School District high school teacher I know wrote me a letter about end-of-the-school-year testing. What this teacher describes is a little confusing – but that’s probably the point.
Remember “final exam week”? Especially when you were a freshman and you learned that you only have to come to school if/when you had an exam?
Boy, have times changed.
In my district, where I am a veteran teacher – that is no longer the case. Final exam week – also known as Regents week is now reserved only for those taking actual Regents exams. “Final exams” are now often referred to as “post-assessments”. When do students take their final exams? During the last weeks of school, when students traditionally wrap up the year, finish projects, and prepare for their exams.
As a high school teacher, the last marking period of the school year, better than any other marking period, is planned to the day and usually loaded with work. Students are given their assignments and know the timeline regarding how the marking period will progress. Unfortunately, for my kids, their time has been cut short. Mind you the marking period is already shortened due to final exam week. This last marking period is 24 instructional days. Other marking periods max out at 32 days. The loss of eight instructional days is a 25 percent reduction! Not only are there fewer instructional days on the calendar in this last marking period, there are even fewer legitimate days of classwork going on. Remember in the beginning when I mentioned that “Exam week” is reserved for only those taking Regents exams? Well, my class does not end in a Regents exam, so they are to take their post-assessment during class time! That is a loss of two to three additional class days.
Add on the early administration of the Common Core Algebra exam – my class was cancelled that day – now my students will have had 20 instructional days this marking period. Oh! It keeps going. Next week, I will be pulled out of my classes to grade those exams! Yes, there will be a substitute; my students will be in class – however – seriously! You really think they’re going to work as they would if I were present? (This could be fixed relatively easily – send post-assessments back to finals week, where they belong!)
Now, let’s talk about these post-assessments, SLOs (Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives?) and APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review?).
Post-assessments. Traditionally, students take their final exams during finals. There are only two testing periods per day at 3 hours each. Students were able to work for an extended period of time and focus on one test. Now, students are taking tests during class time. So, a 90-minute test is to be taken over a few days in 45-minute increments. Basically, students come to class, get materials handed out and begin their test. Then class is over! Hand everything back in and leave. Come back tomorrow, hand everything out and work some more – often rereading the passages and questions that were interrupted yesterday because of the end of the class period. It is terribly unfair to students. They cannot get in a groove, sustain their focus, and power through their test. It’s start-stop-start-stop, etc. Is that really conducive to high achievement? In addition, my student in 5th period just left his Global Studies class where he just sat for that post-assessment! AND will move to another period and work on THAT class’s post-assessment. UNFAIR. While the score they earn is a small class 6th percentage of their final average, it is a significant portion of my evaluation, which brings me to SLOs and APPR.
The exam my students are taking was not created until this winter. This past fall, we were asked to predict – to a percentage point – precisely what score each student will earn on this test, which hadn’t even been created yet!
In October, I had to list my 85 students and state what they’ll earn – hhmmmm, Joe – I think he’ll get a 72; Darryl – he’s going to get an 84; Carly – she’ll probably get an 80. I had to do this with every single student.
Yes – I had “data” to look at from previous school years, but how am I to predict how a student would do on a random day in June on a test I hadn’t even seen!?! That’s the SLO part, now the APPR part. 20% of my final evaluation will be based on what percentage of my 85 students earned or exceeded the grade I guessed they’d get back in October. Now that I have actually seen the test, yeah – sign me up for a TIP right now!!! (Teacher Improvement Plan – for teachers deemed “ineffective” or “developing” in the new APPR rating scale.) I’ve spent more than a decade earning respect and a reputation for being a good teacher, having earned “Distinguished” evaluations, taught AP classes, mentored student teachers and served as a department coach. This system will not reflect that.
Back to the kids. This system is not working, it is not allowing them to be successful. I feel badly for them, they are stressed, burnt out and tested out. Are the parents even aware of this?
The Rochester Teachers Association has filed a grievance over the post-assessments. I think many of the issues described here are unique to the RCSD. It appears to be a chaotic system with the primary goal of informing a dubious teacher evaluation system.
Links of the Day:
– Land between Buffalo and Rochester will be last national cemetery for veterans to be built for next 40 years.
– That’s it. Larry Glazer owns all of Rochester.
– There will be no charges filed against the Buffalo woman who went on a racist rant. But there’s been such a backlash, police removed her children for their safety.
– A review of the Cortaca mess blames everything except college drinking culture.